Surry ‘walks’ to fight type 1 diabetes

Anthony Gonzalez Staff Reporter

November 11, 2013

DOBSON — On Oct. 26, local students, parents, school nurses and diabetes staff from the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center attended the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) “Walk to Cure Diabetes” event held at the Wake Forest University BB&T Football Field in Winston-Salem.

According to a health coordinator, the annual event supports people living with type 1 diabetes while raising awareness and funds to support research to ultimately improve the lives of those with type 1 diabetes.

Kelly Whittington, a diabetes education coordinator for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, said students and nurses representing Surry County Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, Elkin City Schools and a home-school group walked the 2.5-mile charity walk.

“Over two dozen made the walk. We’re going to keeping getting the word out and supporting families,” said Whittington.

The students, families and nurses who attended are members of “Surry’s Sweetest,” a local support group for students with diabetes and their families.

“We formed the group over a year ago,” said Whitington. “It’s amazing at how many families are burdened with the type 1 diabetes. We just want them to know that they are not alone.”

The support group is a collaborative effort between the Diabetes Program at the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, school nurses throughout Surry County and the Surry County Health Foundation.

“Surry’s Sweetest” support group is funded by a generous grant through the Surry County Health Foundation, according to Whittington. Since receiving funding in October 2012, the group has attended events at the skating rink, bowling alley, swimming pool and movies. The funding has allowed for rental of youth-friendly facilities, meals, refreshments and prizes, all of which have enriched the meeting experience. Kids from 6 to 17 years old with type 1 diabetes have attended with their families and their school nurses.

“We have just received a mini-grant from the Surry County Health Foundation. This is great news. We’re able to have funding for the program through 2014,” she said.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong and chronic disease in which there is a high level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. It can strike at any age. It is most often diagnosed in children, adolescents, or young adults, according to the health department.

Without enough insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas by special cells called beta cells, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of going into the cells. The body is unable to use this glucose for energy. This leads to the symptoms of type 1 diabetes.

According to Whittington, the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. Most likely it is an autoimmune disorder. This is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. With type 1 diabetes, an infection or another trigger causes the body to mistakenly attack the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes can be passed down through families, too.

“It’s a lot to deal with. In schools, kids have to take four to five insulin shots a day and check sugar five to six times a day. Some have insulin pumps. If they don’t get their insulin, the condition can get out of control in hours,” said Whittington.

According to the Surry County Health Department, signs of type 1 diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, and rapid weight loss, blurry eyesight, and fatigue. In most cases, visiting a health-care provider would be the best first step at determining if a person is experiencing type 1 diabetes symptoms.

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 835-1513 or agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.